Vinyl Records: Jargon Buster
Whether you're a newbie when it comes to buying vinyl records or are one of those (excellent) people who've moved the kids into a smaller room to make way for your collection of wax, here's a handy guide to all that tricky vinyl terminology.
Some vinyl records have bigger holes in their centre than usual e.g. 7"s for jukebox use. For these records you will need to buy an adapter - although not from us, because we don't (currently) stock them.
Standard vinyl versus audiophile vinyl. Is there really a difference? Well, if you're playing your vinyl through anything other than a decent combination of turntable, amp, speakers, etc. then probably not. Debate rages about whether things like pressing the vinyl at a heavier weight (180g or above) make that much difference to actual sound quality. And if the engineers make a mess of mastering the music in the first place, no amount of care or tinkering with the vinyl is gonna rescue that.
But for all those with good hi-fi equipment (and/or sensitive ears) the sheer detail that goes into a good 'audiophile' vinyl pressing should, all other factors being equal, make a difference. Virgin, non-recycled vinyl free of contaminants. Stampers cleaned every few hundred copies to ensure a better pressing. In a nutshell: it's a higher attention to detail when pressing. Does any of this actually happen? Your guess is as good as ours.
In these days of endless, crazily coloured vinyl variations it's worth reminding ourselves that the standard colour for a vinyl record is black for a reason.
But what is that reason? Why are vinyl records black? Multiple theories abound - and because we're not scientists we can't answer the question, sorry. Did it start as a sneaky way for record companies to hide imperfections? Does the introduction of carbon into the PVC mix increase the resilience and structural integrity of the record? Does it somehow improve sound quality, adding useful weight and reducing friction? Or is it a method for reducing static, and therefore dust, and therefore improving both sound quality and longevity?
Sometimes an artist will give away a free record alongside the record they are trying to sell. Could be bonus tracks, could be remixes, could be a limited edition, could something else. They are trying to excite you into buying their records. We urge you to fall for their sales tactic.
An additional track that isn't included on the standard pressing. Another sales tactic. Another one you should definitely fall for.
Multiple vinyl records all packaged up nicely in a presentation box. Always lovely. Usually pricey. Again, the more you buy of these the better your chances of getting into heaven.
Catalogue number (or "catnumber")
Most, but not all, vinyl records have a unique catalogue number, used by the record label to identify a release. Separate versions of the same release will usually have different catalogue numbers e.g. a coloured vinyl version will have a different catnumber from the black vinyl version.
Coloured vinyl (or "colourway")
A vinyl record pressed onto a colour other than black, with is the standard colour for a vinyl record. Although insanely popular at the time of writing (2019) nobody really gave a stuff about coloured vinyl back when we started out. Fun fact: in its pure state, vinyl itself is clear. So why are vinyl records black? There are various theories...see our entry on black vinyl for more.
Deleted / out of print / OOP
Records that are no longer being pressed, and that may no longer even be available to buy commercially. The most desirable of these are very highly sought-after indeed and command prices on the used market that will make your eyes bleed.
A die-cut sleeve is simply where there is a hole in the middle of the sleeve where the record label can be revealed. These are regularly used for dance 12"s where there is no or minimal artwork so that the label itself forms part of the art.
This is a record pressed up purely for the use of disc jockeys. This could be a radio DJ such as Bruno Brookes or a club DJ such as Peter Tong. Again, collectible if they get out into the wild.
A record that contains two vinyl LPs rather than one. Often used for longer albums, albums containing bonus tracks, etc.
A download code is usually a slip of paper/card included in the packaging of the vinyl, and that allows you to download a digital copy of the record onto your device. You simply log onto the site published on the card, add in the code, and hey presto - music.
Not all albums come with download codes, which can make some vinyl lovers shake with rage. But Spotify, Apple Music, etc. will eventually make download codes a thing of the past. Like record shops.
This is a process where the printing press is used to create a mound or bump in the artwork of the sleeve. This gives an extra quality to the sleeve as you can feel as well as see undulations in the artwork.
Short for "extended play", these are records that contain more tracks than a single but fewer than an album. You're normally gonna get four tracks, but sometimes you'll get three, sometimes you'll get five, etc.More info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extended_play
Sometimes rather than placing new music onto a side of vinyl, the artist will request that the side is etched. This means that no music can be heard on that side of the record but you'll see some kind of scratching in the vinyl. They are unfathomably popular.
A first pressing is, as you might have guessed, the first pressing of a particular record. These can be more sought-after than later pressings. For example, David Bowie fans were desperate to get hold of a first pressing of his 'Blackstar' swansong despite later pressings being absolutely identical.
These are very thin 7" records that were initially used as promotional items to be given away with magazines and bonus discs with albums. They sound dreadful, but they're cheap to manufacture and have a certain kitsch quality.
In the 1980s lots of indie-pop bands released singles on flexidisc. They'd crease easily, and you had to place a coin on the centre to stop them slipping. Kids just don't know they are born these days.
As an aside, I once came very close to blows with a friend over a flexidisc - My Bloody Valentine's 'Sugar'. He won that one, and later that year my girlfriend (a big MBV fan) left me for him too. Bastard. But look at us now. I work in a record shop *surrounded* by flexidiscs and he's a corporate lawyer slaving away all day for mere buttons I'm sure. I think we all know who's really won at life there, don't we?
A gatefold sleeve is a sleeve that opens up like a book would. Many times these are double albums but there's nothing stopping a single vinyl being numbered if it wants to. '70s progressive rock bands like Yes were very fond of a gatefold.
A lot of records are half speed mastered these days for better sound quality. A 33rpm record is cut at 16 2/3rpm with the master slowed down so that the record still sounds normal when played at the correct speed. As the cutting head has more time it allows more to make it into the recording.
A vinyl record that has been produced/released overseas and imported into the UK for resale. After Brexit, these may not exist any more.
A vinyl record that's only available from an independent retailer like our good selves, rather than a faceless conglomerate like Amazon.
When you get your record home you will note that it comes in an outer card sleeve. But this alone will not protect the record so there'll be an inner sleeve in which the record sits. Sometimes these are printed with lyrics, photos and credits at other times they'll be plain. But in both cases they prevent the vinyl from getting damaged.
In special cases you will get an insert with the record. This is often a 12" x 12" piece of paper that will have lyrics, credits or photos printed on it. Sometimes these will be smaller especially on records of a DIY nature. They are are cheaper way of the artist getting all the info on the record without printing expensive inner sleeves.
You don't see them much now but an interview disc was a record made of a spoken word interview with a band or artist. A superb example is this interview picture disc with Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran (see link).More info: https://goo.gl/images/hGZnXs
Label (or 'label area')
OK, this one may seem pretty obvious but for the sake of completeness...the label is the printed area in the centre of a vinyl record.
These are records cut one at a time manually using a record lathe cutter. Each record therefore has a slightly different sound. They are usually very limited and so very collectible.More info: https://www.musicglue.com/riggs/lathe-cut-vinyl
The very edge of a vinyl record is free of any music whatsoever. It's basically dead space to allow the needle to catch when it drops, leading it gently in to the music itself.
A vinyl record that has been produced in limited quantities. Often very collectable: snap these up while you can.
This is where the inner groove on a vinyl record forms a closed loop, which traps the tonearm preventing it from going any further. It means that the music can the play as a loop. The only way to ever get out of it is to move the tonearm forward with your bare fingers.
Short for "long player". The standard album-length vinyl record, usually played at 33RPM but always worth playing at 45RPM if you're short of time.
Don't get me started. Mastering is the final volume boost and EQ that is put onto music before it is pressed to vinyl. A lot of mastering engineers are under pressure from labels to make loud masters but a quieter, more subtle master works better when pressed to vinyl due to having a better dynamic range. Although it's just a technical requirement, some mastering engineers such as Taylor Dupree are highly sought after and used as 'selling points' for the vinyl.
This is a number scratched into the run out groove of the record. This is useful for collectors as it tells them exactly which edition of the record they have.
See also: Extended Play. Who remembers the 1970s? Well a maxi-single was a term used for a long single that may have more than the regulation two tracks. In the 1980s this could refer to a single with additional remixes or club mixes.
Vinyl records are mostly made in stereo these days i.e. with sound coming through two separate channels. Many older records, though, are mono. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, for example, mixed in mono due to hearing problems, and his productions from this era are stunning. Something was lost when boffins transferred them to stereo. Do not underestimate the power of mono.
To make them collectible and unique, some pressings of records are numbered. You'll usually see it on the back of the record. The numbering may be printed or written by hand.
A thin paper strip wrapped around the outside of the sleeve of the LP. They originated in Japan and are usually used to contain information about the record or a track listing. Records with Obi strips are deemed collectable...
Another way to destroy the earth's resources is to issue a one sided disc. This, as you imagine, is where the record is only pressed on one side of the vinyl. The other side is either blank or etched. Do not try to play the blank side on your stereo system.
Out of print
Out of print refers to a vinyl record which has previously been available to buy but has now sold out or deleted. Basically, you can't buy it new and will need to fish around second hand marketplaces to secure your copy.
A Picture Disc is a record which contains an image - perhaps of the artist or the album art - on the disc itself. If you are lucky the link below will show you an example of the pinnacle of picture disc technology... Stefan Dennis's 1989 release 'Don't You Make It Feel Good'.More info: https://goo.gl/images/qLcYwi
Back in the 1980s you could buy a record and poster in one by buying a Poster Sleeve record. I had a copy of XTC's 'SGT Rock Is Going To Help Me' on 7" which folded out to reveal a very creased poster to go on my wall and annoy my mum.
Another term that was barely heard before 2010. A Private Press is a record pressed up in limited quantities only for the artist and their friends. They may have done this for a laugh or because no-one else wanted to put out their records. Labels like Lights In The Attic started to find these Private Press records and re-issue them to much interest. Chances are, if you pressed up a copy of you and your mum singing 'Didn't We Have A Lovely Time The Day We Went To Bangor' in 1978, it will have been re-issued by now.
These are records that instead of having a normal small hole cut out to get it on the spindle, has a three or four pronged...um...thing in the middle which can be pushed out so the record can be used in jukeboxes.
A quadruple LP is a four LP set - eight sides of music if you will. A recent example was Kamasi Washington's Heaven and Earth' - a record no-one has yet managed to make it to the end of.
A re-press differs slightly from a re-issue in that it is a later press of a vinyl record that hasn't been deleted. Re-issue tends to refer to a record which has been out of print for some time.
Record Store Day
An event we're not invited to. See also: RSD.More info: https://recordstoreday.co.uk/home/
A deleted or out-of-print record that has been re-released. Particularly popular around Record Store Day.
Reverse board sleeve
This is where the reverse of standard card is used for the jacket or cover of the LP. This will give the quality of the sleeve a more grainy, vintage feel.
'Revolutions Per Minute' i.e. the number of times a vinyl record spins in a minute when placed onto a turntable. There are three main RPM speeds: 331/3rpm, 45rpm, and 78rpm. You'll need to visit a grandparent, music library or eccentric aristocrat to see a 78rpm record in the wild these days. Going even further back, records used to spin at 16rpm which were usually used for spoken word releases.
Record Store Day. An event we're not invited to.More info: https://recordstoreday.co.uk/home/
This is the bit at the end of the record before the needle hits the centre. Traditionally these are used for the band or cutting engineer to scratch subtle messages or in jokes into the vinyl. Or pieces of audio can be added. See: The Beatles: 'Sergeant Pepper's...'
Run-out groove message
Sometimes cutting engineers will have some fun by scratching messages into the run out groove of records. Nirvana’s single ‘Love Buzz’ 7" reads “Why Don’t You Trade Those Guitars For Shovels?” whilst Kruton’s ‘Granular Plateaux’ 12″ reads ROBBIE WILLIAMS IS SHIT.
Most records these days are sealed in a cellophane wrapper. Some are not sealed which leads some music lovers to go absolutely spare with rage. The only reason you would need to keep your record sealed would be if you weren't going to play it.
Records come in all shapes and sizes as long as they are round. But they don't have to be round. Sometimes records come in other shapes such as triangles. In fact our very leader Phil Leigh released a trilogy of records in hexagon, triangle and square shapes for his now defunct Jonathon Whiskey label (see link).More info: https://www.discogs.com/2-By-Bukowski-Mum-Dad-Manual-Handling-Playschool-Trilogy/release/131923
Either a noisy rock band starring Steve Albini or the breakable material once used to make 78rpm records. Yes, at one point you could easily break your favourite disc....or on the upside if Elbow made records in the 1930s you could smash it to smithereens and never have to hear it again.
Once upon a time vinyl records just came in their standard card sleeves- you could roll your joints on them without slippage. These days most records come shrinkwrapped. This is a sheath-like cover which fits tightly over the record as to ensure the sleeve doesn't get damaged. You'll need to cut open the shrink wrap to free the record and play it but to be fair a lot of collectors never bother.
A circular piece of cloth that is placed onto the turntable instead of the standard rubber. It enables the disc jockey to slide the record about and do such mind-blowing tricks as scratching. We sell them.More info: https://www.normanrecords.com/cloudsearch/index.php?q=turntable+mat
The thin edge of the record sleeve that would face outwards if you were displaying your records on your shelves. It usually contains artist name, title of record and catalogue number.
Stereo is your standard two channelled playback system. Two (or more) independent signals emerge from the sound system to give the impression that the sound is coming from different areas.
This is a prototype version of the record used to test the sound quality of the pressing before hundreds if not thousands of the real thing is produced. They are usually just intended for artists and producers to approve the work before manufacture but like almost everything else have slid out to the world at large to become collectable.
This is a vinyl record sleeve where the the cover art is not printed directly on the surface of the cardboard sleeve, but printed on an outer layer of paper.
Something to do with the weight a cartridge exerts on the record itself or something. I dunno.More info: https://blog.fluance.com/tracking-force-important-turntables/
Three vinyl records for the price of one. Or, more accurately, for the price of three.
Musical hardware used to play vinyl records. AKA 'record player', 'record deck', 'deck', or 'that thing dad plays music from'.
Shorthand for polyvinyl chloride, the material used to make vinyl records.More info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyvinyl_chloride
A word that provokes fierce debate amongst aficionados of records made out of polyvinyl chloride.More info: https://thevinylfactory.com/news/petition-the-plural-of-vinyl-to-vinyls/
Let's resist the obvious jokes / references. Virgin vinyl offers the promise of an unsullied, purer vinyl listening experience. Allegedly free from the melted-down remnants of overstocked warehouses, factory fault bins, etc. virgin vinyl is the high-grade stuff of audiophile dreams. Better product for a better vinyl high - fewer clicks, fewer pops, less noise.
As with many audiophile claims it's sometimes hard to know where the truth ends and the wishful thinking begins, but just as some people will drop £100 a metre on Atlas Mavros speaker cable or whatever so virgin vinyl is very much sought-after by people with really, really sensitive ears.
Either a legendary record label purveying some of the finest electronic music ever committed to record or, as in this case, a twist in the vinyl - leading to the dreaded wobble when the record plays.
Heat and, to a lesser extent, damp are the primary causes. So don't go placing your vinyl near a radiator, two-bar heater or open fire. And if you live in a country blessed with the sun, keep your wax away from it.
You'd think that a record issued without artwork would be a really boring and unwanted thing. But no. Indeed, some of the most sought-after records in the world are white labels. Initially made for promotional purposes, these are usually collected simply to show off.
Records sometimes get withdrawn from manufacture. This could be because of a copyright infringement, a problem with the pressing or if the record is controversial. These records will then become sought after and collectible.
A vinyl record of medium size, wedged between its smaller 7" and larger 12" siblings. Usually used for EPs, and all Brian Jonestown Massacre records.
A large vinyl record. Fits into the palm of your hand if you've got really large hands. Plays more music than a 7".
A small vinyl record. Fits into the palm of your hand if you've got large hands. Plays less music than a 12".